After getting spammed with 12,000 fake tips, state auditor to review 5 bathroom bill complaints

After getting spammed with 12,000 fake tips, state auditor to review 5 bathroom bill complaints

SALT LAKE CITYABC4) — After three weeks of sifting through more than 12,000 bogus complaints about Utah’s transgender bathroom law, the Utah State Auditor’s Office says it’s received only a handful of submissions that might be legitimate.

In a statement Wednesday, State Auditor John Dougall wrote that while most complaints to the state’s tip line have been “frivolous at best and transparent hoaxes at worst” the state is looking into five of them to determine if they will require further investigation.

Utah State Auditor John Dougall posts another video as ‘bathroom monitor’ amid concern over transgender bill

ABC4 reached out to Dougall’s office Thursday for more details on the five possibly legitimate complaints, but a spokesperson said that they are “unable to share any additional information about the nature of the complaints, nor the entities involved, until we complete our initial review and any possible investigation.”

Even so, in his statement, Dougall said that none of the five complaints are a clear violation of the state’s new transgender bathroom law.

HB 257titled “Sex-based Designations for Privacy, Anti-Bullying, and Women’s Opportunities,” passed the legislature in January, restricting transgender people from using state-run bathrooms or changing rooms that don’t align with their sex at birth.

While the bill took immediate effect when it was signed into law, the complaint tip line, which the bill mandates were hosted by the state auditor, didn’t go live until May 1. Immediately, it was spammed with thousands of hoax complaints by transgender activists and others upset over the legislation.

Days later, Dougall began releasing a series of statements. First, he wanted the public (and legislators) to understand that the complaint form is for possible investigations into government entities, not for probes into individuals.

“We are not required — and have no desire — to intrude on the most intimate aspects of a person’s life,” he said.

In a series of videos posted on Twitter/X, Dougall unhappily deemed himself the state’s “bathroom monitor,” and called out HB 257’s sponsor, State Rep. Kera Birkeland (R-Morgan), saying she didn’t understand her own law. Previously, he’d called the legislature for rushing the bill through during the first weeks of the session.

In one of the videos, Dougall said that if HB 257 was about actually protecting women and girls, there’d be some money put into retrofitting state-owned facilities to include single-occupancy rooms. Instead, the bill only mandates that government entities consider such facilities in new construction.

“This piece of the bill looks like it’s really more about show than substance,” Dougall said. “And it wouldn’t be the first time the legislature did something like that, would it.”

In her own social media posts and statements, Birkeland responded to Dougall, who is not running for re-election but instead is in the race to replace Rep. John Curtis in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District.

“I look forward to working with our next state auditor, because I know that he will take the role of protecting women seriously,” Birkeland wrote.

In another statement, she said her bill appropriately tasks the auditor’s office with looking into complaints against government entities that might be in violation of the law. Per the bill, entities who break the law could face fines up to $10,000 per day.

“Many parents and women have reached out with frustration and disappointment that our auditor hasn’t taken this role seriously and investigated their legitimate complaints,” Birkeland said.

In one of his latest “bathroom monitor” videos, Dougall noted that people can already report potential predators or lawbreakers to the police — not his office. Dougall also reflected in the video that bathrooms have been a historical point of contention, citing segregation and issues of accessibility for those who are disabled.

“Governing is about more than just about passing a bill,” he said. “It’s also about engaging in public dialogue to discover key information and to build critical support.”

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